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Rabbi Leo Baeck addresses a meeting of German Jews in a synagogue in Berlin.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 07289

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    Rabbi Leo Baeck addresses a meeting of German Jews in a synagogue in Berlin.
    Rabbi Leo Baeck addresses a meeting of German Jews in a synagogue in Berlin.


    Rabbi Leo Baeck addresses a meeting of German Jews in a synagogue in Berlin.
    After 1933
    Berlin, [Berlin] Germany
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Hans Cherney

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Hans Cherney
    Source Record ID: Collections: 1993.32

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Leo Baeck (1873-1956), German liberal rabbi and leader of German Jewry. Born in Lissa, Germany, Baeck was the son of Rabbi Samuel and Eva (Placzek) Baeck. He received both a traditional Jewish upbringing and a humanistic gymnasium education. In 1891 Baeck began his rabbinical studies at the Juedische Theologische Seminar [Jewish Theological Seminar] in Breslau and enrolled in the philosophy seminar at the University of Breslau. Baeck transferred to the University of Berlin in 1894, where the following year he completed his doctoral dissertation on Spinoza under the direction of philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey. Baeck also completed his rabbinical studies at the Lehranstalt fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums [School for the Scientific Study of Judaism] in Berlin, and was ordained in 1885. He was then appointed rabbi of a congregation in Oppeln, where he met and married Nathalie Hamburger. In 1905 Baeck published the work that established his reputation as the leading representative of liberal Judaism in Germany, "The Essence of Judaism". The book was written in response to Protestant theologian Adolf von Harnack's characterization of Judaism in "The Essence of Christianity". In 1912 Baeck became rabbi of the new Fasanenstrasse synagogue in Berlin, where he also joined the faculty of the liberal rabbinical seminary, the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums. During WWI Baeck served as an army chaplain on both the eastern and western fronts. His experiences with soldiers in battle convinced him of the necessity for Jewish-Christian dialogue. After the war Baeck returned to Berlin where he took on numerous leadership roles, serving as liaison between the Berlin Jewish community and the Prussian provincial and Weimar national governments. As chairman of the Union of German Rabbis, Baeck played a central role in fostering cooperation between the orthodox and liberal wings of German Jewry. In 1924 Baeck was elected president of Bnai Brith. He was also a member of the governing boards of the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbuerger juedischen Glaubens [Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith], the major Jewish self-defense organization, and the Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der deutschen Juden [Central Welfare Agency of German Jews]. He served, as well, as the non-Zionist member of the executive boards of the Jewish Agency for Palestine and the Jewish National Fund. On September 17, 1933 Baeck became the president of the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden [National Representation of German Jews], the council mandated by the Nazis. Through the Reichsvertretung and its successor organization, the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland, Baeck facilitated the emigration of approximately one third of the Jewish population of Germany, and organized educational and welfare services for those who were unable to leave the country. Despite many opportunities to emigrate, Baeck refused to abandon his fellow German Jews, and remained in the country until the dissolution of the Reichsvereinigung and his deportation to Theresienstadt in June 1943. After his liberation from Theresienstadt in May 1945, Baeck refused to return to Germany. Instead he settled in London, where he founded the Institute for Research on the History of Jewry in Germany since the Enlightenment. In 1945-1946 Baeck served as president of both the Council of Jews from Germany and the World Union for Progressive Judaism. From 1948 until his death he taught in Europe and the United States, most notably as a member of the faculty of the Hebrew Union College reform rabbinical seminary in Cincinnati. Leo Baeck died on November 2, 1956 in London. After his death the research institute he founded in London was renamed the Leo Baeck Institute. Headquartered today in New York, with branches in London and Jerusalem, the LBI is the major archive for the history of German Jewry.
    Record last modified:
    2007-08-02 00:00:00
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